September 22 – It’s Read a New Book Month

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About the Holiday

Such a terrific month—so many terrific new books! If you haven’t taken the opportunity of this month’s holiday to visit your local bookstore and buy any of the books you’ve seen here or elsewhere, you still have time! Adding new inspirational, educational, encouraging, and just plain funny books—like today’s—to a child’s home bookshelf lets them know that reading is important and a fantastic way to spend downtime each day.

It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk

Written by Josh Funk | Illustrated by Edwardian Taylor

 

You know the drill—Once upon a time there was a poor boy named Jack…. One day this waif woke up to a moo-tivating kiss from his cow Bessie and… Wait, wait! Kids, cover your eyes! And, Jack, “put on some pants!” Phew! Disaster averted! Now where were we? Oh, right. So Jack (now well-dressed) was told that because Bessie had stopped making milk, he had to sell her. He protested, but the mysterious narrator protested right back: “I didn’t WRITE the story, Jack. I’m just telling it.”

Down at the market, Jack received five beans in exchange for Bessie. Of course, this is a fairy tale, and the beans are magic. Jack tried all the magical words he knew to get them to work, but they just sat in the bowl smiling up at him. Yeah, these beans have faces. Overcome by hunger, Jack determined to eat the beans, but there was that pesky narrator again ordering him to throw the beans out the window and then go to bed. As you can imagine—what with selling his best friend and hunger gnawing at his belly—Jack was a bit testy and complainy and countered, “Aww, but I’m not tired. This story keeps getting worse and worse.”

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Image copyright Edwardian Taylor, 2017, text copyright Josh Funk, 2017. Courtesy of Two Lions Publishing.

In the morning, Jack discovered that an enormous beanstalk had grown up overnight. It was so tall that Jack couldn’t even see the top. The narrator told him to start climbing. At first, Jack balked, then he tried to stall by offering to get his climbing gear, but the narrator had already determined that Jack “had no possessions.” Finally, Jack agreed to go, but only if the narrator changed the beanstalk’s size. In a classic “be careful what you wish for” maneuver, the beanstalk suddenly began to grow bigger. “Seriously?” Jack said.

Jack was actually enjoying his climb when he spied Cinderella’s castle with Cindy waving from her balcony. Her voice rang across the distance, inviting Jack to a ball that very night. The narrator was not happy with this delay and urged Jack on. Finally, he reached the top, where “he found himself in front of a humongous house.” Jack pegged it right away as a giant’s abode, but he went inside anyway. As he was looking around at all the mammoth furnishings, he heard the giant’s voice: “Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum. I smell the blood of an Englishman.”

Heck, Jack knew about poetry and recognized immediately that “that doesn’t even rhyme” and offered an alternative: “Fee-fi-fo-fum, I can see the giant’s bum.” This bit of wordplay just enraged the giant—that, plus his fear that Jack was trying to steal all his best stuff. The giant grabbed Jack and was about to…well, listen for yourself: “Be he alive or be he dead, I’ll grind his bones to make my bread.” Pretty chilling stuff, but even though Jack was facing imminent danger, he was pretty positive about the giant’s new rhyme.

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Image copyright Edwardian Taylor, 2017, text copyright Josh Funk, 2017. Courtesy of Two Lions Publishing.

That made the giant happy, and Jack thought this moment of camaraderie was the perfect time to let slip to the giant that “there’s a good chance that you’re going to die at the end of this story.” The giant put on a frowny face, and his eyes began to tear up. It seemed the giant didn’t want to die, so he suddenly decided to become a vegan. Listening to this emotional roller coaster, the narrator started to get steamed because he was losing control of the story. “ENOUGH!!!” he shouted.

“GIANT!” he hollered and ordered him to chase Jack down the beanstalk. “JACK!” he yelled and told him to chop down the beanstalk. All this shouting only served to bond Jack and the Giant in an oversized friendship. They commiserated together and planned to make a taco salad from one of the giant’s recipes. After that they went to Cinderella’s party, where they told everyone about their adventure. And who’s complaining now? You got this—the narrator!

P.S. And, of course, they all lived happily ever after by splitting the giant’s fortune and opening a restaurant named Where Have You Bean? for a whole host of fairy tale customers!

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Image copyright Edwardian Taylor, 2017, text copyright Josh Funk, 2017. Courtesy of Two Lions Publishing.

In Josh Funk’s newest romp, Jack takes matters into his own hands as he revamps his famous story into one that turns out “happily ever after” for all the characters. Along the way readers will laugh at Jack’s feisty repartee with the unseen narrator as he’s swept up in a larger-than-life scenario and uses his wits—and wit—to finally tell his own story in his own way. Young readers will appreciate Jack’s independent spunk, and adults will respond to his sweet nature.

Edwardian Taylor’s noodle-limbed, big-eyed Jack knows how to tug at readers’ heartstrings. Soulfully saying good-bye to Bessie, gazing at his nearly empty plate in anguish, and warily approaching the giant’s castle, Jack will quickly have readers empathizing with his plight and cheering him on as he outwits the gigantic red-bearded giant and turns him into a friend and business partner. And while the giant may be big, kids will soon see that he’s really a softy. Children will love all the big and small details on every page, from the leafy beanstalk to cute Cindy-rella to the gold-coin laying goose. And if you’ve never seen a purple cow…here’s your chance. The final spread of a packed Where Have You Bean? restaurant gives kids an opportunity to show their knowledge of fairy-tale characters.

It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk makes for a spirited and funny read aloud, and would be super performed by a group in classrooms or by clubs, or even by friends or siblings.

Ages 4 – 8

Two Lions, 2017 | ISBN 978-1542045650

Enter the world of Josh Funk and discover more about him and his books as well as plenty of book-related activities on his website!

Learn more about Edwardian Taylor and view a portfolio of his artwork on his website!

Read a New Book Month Activity

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This is Not a Yardstick! Yardstick Craft

 

Need to measure something—like the height of your garden, the amount of rain or snow that fell, or even the number of books you have? You can do it in style with your very own This is Not a Yardstick! yardstick craft.

Supplies

  • 50-inch wooden stake, available at craft stores
  • Small wooden leaves, 45 – 50, available at craft stores 

OR

  • Light green and dark green foam sheets 
  • Green paint, light and dark
  • Black marker
  • Paint brush
  • Strong glue
  • Flower pot
  • Oasis or clay
  • Ruler
  • Pencil

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Directions

  1. Paint the wooden stake with the green paint, let dry
  2. With the ruler mark the stake in 1-inch increments along the edge of the stake

How to Make the Leaves

  1. If using wooden leaves, paint half light green and half dark green
  2. If using foam, cut 1 3/4-inch tear-drop shaped leaves (half from light green foam, half from dark green foam), 45 – 50 or as needed
  3. Cut two larger leaves, one from each color to decorate the top of the stake
  4. Draw a line down the center of each leaf’
  5. Write the number of the inch marked on each leaf, from 1 to 45 or higher with the black marker, alternating colors

How to Attach the Leaves

  1. Glue the leaves to the stake, attaching the odd-numbered inch leaves to the left side of the stake and the even-numbered leaves to the right side of the stake.
  2. Attach half of the leaf to the stake, letting the tip stick out from the side
  3. Glue the two larger leaves to the top of the stake

How to Store Your Yardstick

  1. Put the oasis or clay in the flower pot
  2. Stick the stake into the flower pot to keep it handy

Picture Book Review

May 17 – World Baking Day

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About the Holiday

This may be the most delicious day of the year! Established to share the enjoyment—and scrumptious results—of homemade breads, cookies, cakes, pies…. (Yum! I’m getting hungry just typing this sentence!) …World Baking Day encourages people to try their hand at mixing up a new or favorite recipe. As this is a worldwide holiday, you may consider baking something from another country or from your heritage. With so many cookbooks and online recipe sites available, it’s easy to find—and make—the perfect treat!

The Case of the Stinky Stench

Written by Josh Funk | Illustrated by Brendan Kearney

 

The fridge is full and the denizens happy. Even former rivals Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast are enjoying a sweet vacation together at the Marshmallow Coast. But wait! Who is that strange, half-moon shape rushing “past Trifle Tower” and “across Taco Bridge”? It’s none other than Sir French Toast’s nephew, Inspector Croissant, with a disturbing message. “‘Uncle,’ Croissant said, ‘the fridge is in trouble! / A horrible stench turned a whole shelf to rubble! / I’m the last hope, or the fridge will be lost! / Help me, or else we’ll be cooked, served, and sauced.’”

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Image copyright Brendan Kearney, text copyright Josh Funk. Courtesy of Sterling Books.

Just as he says this, the facts begin to stink for themselves, and French Toast pledges his help. It’s a do or die case for Croissant it seems, as he’s “solved zero cases since getting this job.” Lady Pancake decides the perp is Baron von Waffle and suggests the three pay him a visit. They quietly enter Onion Ring Cave, and Croissant confronts von Waffle. “‘What do you know about smells that are vicious?’ / ‘Nothing!’ said Waffle. ‘My home smells delicious.’” And he’s right; there’s nothing nose-worthy here. Lady Pancake, Sir French Toast and Inspector Croissant leave the cave only to find that the odor has worsened. They follow some tater tots playing nearby to a red curry dish, where an okra divulges an intriguing clue about “a stinky red fish / who lurks at the bottom of Corn Chowder Lake,’” but in his rush to investigate, Croissant trips “by Miss Steak” and goes flying.

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Image copyright Brendan Kearney, text copyright Josh Funk. Courtesy of Sterling Books.

Back on his feet, the intrepid detective and his side-kicks find a sardine-can boat and row across Corn Chowder Lake until they find the “red herring.” They’re convinced that they’ve “unraveled this stinky affair,” but rowing closer, they catch a tantalizing scent instead of a treacherous one. Lady Pancake is ready to give up, but not Inspector Croissant. He sticks his nose in the air and concludes that the smell hails from Casserole Cliff.

When they get to the cliff, they discover a shriveled up mess. The veggies are soft and the fruit a bit rotten, but Inspector Croissant sees the cause of the trouble—“a moldy old fruitcake from eight months ago!” The three are mulling how to get rid of this putrid pest when the fruitcake shares his story, which is all too familiar. The cake confesses that he came to the fridge as a fresh, yummy treat but was left there uneaten to mold and to reek.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-case-of-the-stinky-stench-tater-tots

Image copyright Brendan Kearney, text copyright Josh Funk. Courtesy of Sterling Books.

The inspector understands a few things about food, and as he leads the sad culprit away from the cliff, he explains, “Everyone knows fruitcakes never go stale.” With careful trimming they clean up the cake. Soon the fruitcake is back to his delectable self and has attracted the attention of softhearted Miss Brie while the other foods welcome him back with good cheer and a party to boot.

With the case solved, kids are invited to join the swingingest party in town. As “Spuddy Holly and the Croquettes,” fill the fridge with music, the residents jiggle, wiggle, and dance with abandon across a two-page spread. A fold-down page presents a map that lets readers follow the action from Taco Bridge to Onion Ring Cave to Casserole Cliff and all the stops in between.

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Image copyright Brendan Kearney, text copyright Josh Funk. Courtesy of Sterling Books.

Just reading the first line of The Case of the Stinky Stench with its familiar, exuberant rhythm, I caught a smile creeping across my face as I anticipated the story to come. This sequel to Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast is a cool, fresh take on the mystery genre for little detectives in the—dare I say?—baking. The most delicious part of The Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast series is Funk’s freewheeling imagination that comes to fruition in the expanse of that well-stocked refrigerator’s shelves. Clever rhymes, laugh-inducing puns, a whole stew—I mean slew—of fantastic words, and even a red herring await readers. Of course, old nemesis Baron von Waffle makes an appearance, and the introduction of the forgotten fruitcake shows kids that everyone deserves a second chance.

Brendan Kearney recreates the magic of this chef’s-delight of a refrigerator in full, vivid color and with the most adorable foods ever. Pink and white marshmallows, half-moon tacos, muffins, candy, cookies, and gummy bears all wear cute smiles, as they help Inspector Croissant. Even when the odor becomes overwhelming, the bottles, jars, fruit, and veggies sport endearing frowns. Rambunctious tater tots, hot chili peppers, and a steak-and-fries combo, join the fun. Kids will find ingenious details and visual jokes on every page, and will wish their refrigerators were half as exciting as the home of Lady Pancake and French Toast.

Ages 5 – 8

Sterling Children’s Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1454919605

Discover the world of Josh Funk, his books, and activities for kids on his website!

View a gallery of illustration work and books by Brendan Kearney on his website!

It’s no mystery that you’ll enjoy The Case of the Stinky Stench book trailer!

World Baking Day Activity

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Bite-size Cinnamon Croissants

 

These mini cinnamon croissants are the perfect accompaniment to cup of tea and a great story! And they’re so easy that kids will love making them as much as they enjoy eating them!

Supplies

  • Tube of refrigerated crescent rolls
  • Sugar
  • Cinnamon
  • Butter
  • Small mixing bowl
  • Rolling pin
  • Knife

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, or to the temperature on the package of crescent rolls
  2. Open the tube of crescent rolls and lay them on a cutting board. Do Not separate the rolls
  3. With the rolling pin, roll the dough until it makes one sheet
  4. Measure ¼ cup sugar into the mixing bowl
  5. Add 1 teaspoon cinnamon (or desired amount) to the sugar and stir together until well mixed
  6. Spread a layer of butter over the surface of the dough
  7. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar across the dough. Use more or less depending on how much cinnamon flavor you like
  8. Cut the dough into triangles about two to three inches wide at the base
  9. Roll the triangles up, starting at the base. Looser rolls make flakier croissants
  10. Place the croissants on a baking sheet and curve them into a crescent shape
  11. Bake the croissants at 375 degrees for about 8 minutes, or until golden on top
  12. Let cool
  13. Enjoy!

Picture Book Review

November 28 – National French Toast Day

Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast by Josh Funk and Brendan Kearney Picture Book Review

About the Holiday

French toast is special breakfast treat that has been enjoyed at least as far back as the 4th century, and according to an ancient Latin recipe has always been made in the same way. While the recipe—bread dipped in egg and fried, then topped with syrup, fruit, or (my particular favorite) cinnamon sugar—may have stayed the same, this delicious concoction has gone by many names. Whether you call it French toast, eggy bread, poor knight’s pudding, German toast, Bombay toast, or pain perdu, though, you know what to do on today’s holiday!

Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast

Written by Josh Funk | Illustrated by Brendan Kearney

 

You know those strange noises you sometimes hear coming from your refrigerator? And how you could have sworn the leftovers were on the top shelf? Well, Josh Funk’s Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast may solve those mysteries and more in this rambunctious tale about what happens when relationships grow frosty.

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Image copyright Brendan Kearney, text copyright Josh Funk. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books

One day Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast are hanging out at the back of the fridge when they learn the syrup is almost gone. Lady Pancake claims it as her own, but Sir French Toast replies, “Not if I get there first!” And so off they race! “Through Broccoli Forest, past Orange Juice Fountain, they climbed to the top of Potato Mash Mountain.” But the race takes a turn as the two meet obstacles that are no fun at all: at the edge of a shelf “Toast couldn’t quite stop, plummeting down into jam with a plop.” And “Chili Lagoon slathered Pancake in muck and then at a fork in the road she got stuck.”

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Image copyright Brendan Kearney, text copyright Josh Funk. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books

 

The one-time friends call each other names and taunt each other with boasts of being the best breakfast food. As their competition upends the peace of the whole refrigerator from shelf to shelf, Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast find their energy wilting, and by the time they reach that sweet sought-after prize, they are “battered and soggy, exhausted and crumbling, too tired to push, they were limping and stumbling.”

With the bottle in sight, they are shocked to discover that the last drop of syrup is already gone. Who could have done this dastardly deed? None other than the sneaky Baron Von Waffle! With nothing to gain, Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast no longer have a reason to fight. In fact they realize that they lost out on the syrup because they were fighting. When they see that there is a little butter left, they decide to use the lesson they learned and share it.

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Image copyright Brendan Kearney, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books

There are so many fantastic rhymes in this book that kids will want to hear again and again. One of my favorites comes as Sir French Toast catches up to Lady Pancake: “He scraped himself off and yelled up, / ‘You’re a meanie!’ / as Pancake rappelled / down a rope of linguini.” With such laugh-inducing verses, kids may never look at food the same way again. Josh Funk has created a tale about friendship that is both boisterous and unique and sure to quickly become a favorite.

The refrigerator world as envisioned by Brendan Kearney is as colorful as the food rainbow and as active as a playground in summer. It’s also stacked with the cutest array of legumes, yogurt, cake, juices, fruit, and veggies you’ll find anywhere. The final fold-down page of the entire refrigerator is a delight that kids of all ages will want to linger over even after the story of The Great Race between Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast is over.

Ages 5 and up

Sterling Children’s Books, 2015 | ISBN 978-1454914044

Visit Josh Funk’s Website to download a free Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast Activity Kit and to learn about more upcoming titles!

Discover more art and books by Brendan Kearney on his website!

Watch the trailer for this amazing race – you’ll be singing the Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast theme song in no time!

Love Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast? You butter get ready for more fun with their next adventure: The Case of the Stinky Stench, coming in May 2017!

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National French Toast Day Activity 

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Sweet as Syrup Figure

 

Fun shouldn’t be kept bottled up! Well…maybe just this once. Make your own figure to display or play with from a syrup bottle with this craft. It’s sure to be as sweet as you are!

Supplies

  • Small plastic syrup bottle with a narrow squeeze fliptop and without a handle, empty
  • 1 ½-inch wooden ball with ½-inch hole in bottom
  • 16-inch to 18-inch square piece of cloth
  • Ribbon or strip of material
  • 12 to 14-inch long medium-gauge craft wire
  • Gel pens, black, blue, brown, red (Gel pens work well on the wood as the ink doesn’t bleed into the wood and are easy to control)
  • Poly fill or needle-felting wool
  • Scissors
  • Strong glue

CPB - Syrup Bottle Figure II

Directions

To prepare the bottle

  1. Remove labels from syrup bottle
  2. Cut the flip top in half, keeping the narrow nozzle part

To make the head

  1. Holding the wooden ball with the hole at the bottom, draw a face on the wooden ball with the gel pens
  2. Glue a small handful of poly fill or needle-felting wool to the top of the wooden ball for hair. You can make the hair has long, short, or poofy as you wish.

To make the dress

  1. Cut a 16-inch diameter circle from the material

To assemble the figure

  1. To make the arms, wrap the wire around the neck of the syrup bottle, crossing it in the back and pulling tight
  2. Center the material over the opening of the syrup bottle
  3. Cut tiny slits in the material at the location of the wire on each side of the bottle, and pull the arms through the material
  4. Bend the ends of the wire into a small loop to form hands
  5. Screw the cap with the narrow nozzle over the material
  6. Tie the ribbon or strip of material around the narrow part of the bottle to make the figure’s waist
  7. Place the hole in the wooden ball over the nozzle in the cap and glue into place

Make up your own story with your new figure!

Picture Book Review

September 19 – Talk Like a Pirate Day

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About the Holiday

Shiver me timbers! Avast, ye mateys! Today it be arrgh-uably the best day of the year for all us swashbuckling swabbies that sail the ocean blue a-lookin’ for treasure! Talk Like a Pirate Day, ironically got started in the walled confines of a racquetball court, where a group of guys were doing…well what a group of guys do to encourage each other—toss around pirate phrases. They decided the idea was too good to keep on the court, so they designated September 19th as Talk Like a Pirate Day. They then alerted Dave Barry, comedic writer extraordinaire, who spread word of this day far and wide. Now it’s a favorite of young and old alike. So get out there and do some plunderin’ ye scalliwags!

Pirasaurs!

Written by Josh Funk | Illustrated by Michael Slack

 

There’s a new brigand sailing the bounding main with a crew more rag-tag and wild than any seen before. They roar their chanteys as they set the rigging with their “spiky tails” and play watery pranks on the newbie recruit Who are they? They’ll be happy to tell you themselves—“We’re Pirasaurs! We’re Pirasaurs! We rule the open seas! / We’ll cannon-blast you to the past! We do just what we please!”

All this commotion can be a bit intimidating to the newest matey who knows just what he’s up against: “With lots to learn, I’ve got to earn the crew’s respect and trust. / I’ll rise in rank or walk the plank…I hope I can adjust!” At the point of Captain Rex’s “fabled sword” this little guy—who has yet to cut his sharp teeth—swabs the deck, scrubbing and brushing so fast he ends up in the plesiosaur-infested deep.

Brontobeard steers the ship over the briny waves while “with handy hook, Triceracook / prepares Jurassic feasts!” which leads them all to “…slurp and belch and burp / with buccaneering beasts!” Of course these pirasaurs are after more than fun times—they want treasure! Velocimate navigates by using the stars while our seapuppy reveals that he uses his “smarts to map the charts. / But still we’re led astray!”

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Image copyright Michael Slace, courtesy of slackart.com

Land ho! The pirasaurs come ashore on a distant island. Can treasure be nearby? The crew fans out looking for the X, but no matter how hard they search, they can’t find it. “The crew begins to search within / The frayed and tattered map, / a shadow looms, the water fumes / revealing—It’s a trap!” It seems the pirasaurs had a spy onboard, and now that they’ve found the right spot, he’s alerted his true mates.

They come brandishing swords, sizzling cannon balls, knives, oars, and sneering looks. But Captain Rex’s troop is ready for them. While “a mighty clash erupts upon the sand,” the littlest buccaneer notices a very interesting development. Clutched in the claws of a saur enemy, he sees a fragment of a map. “Ahoy! Avast!” He shouts above the fray. “We’ve got to stop these duels! / Let’s share the scraps of each our maps / To find the gold and jewels!”  The pirasaurs stop fighting and they carefully connect the two shards of paper. Lo and behold! The X is clearly visible! Together the two pirasaur crews uncover the treasure—and what a treasure it is! Not only are there gems, and gold, and silver—the chests contain the nugget of friendship! Now the pirasaurs want readers to join up and join in! “Through battles, brawls and fireballs, / Plus prehistoric roars, / The salty deep is ours to keep— / Come join the Pirasaurs!”

Like rolling waves on the high seas, Josh Funk takes readers on a boisterous journey full of twists, turns, and tricks with the rowdiest group of pirates ever to set sail! Funk’s rhymes flow as fast and smooth as a sloop on a fair-weather day. The new recruit is understandably intimidated by the Jurassic giants, but while these pirates may be dinosaurs, they are modern in their thinking. When the little guy suggests they share, they’re all for it, leading to the best discovery of all—friendship!

Michael Slack signed up all the faves—brontosaurs, triceratops, stegosaurus, spinosaurus, velociraptor, pterodactyl, of course T-rex, and some dinos that haven’t even been discovered yet—in this cross-epoch epic! And these aren’t the scurvy dogs you’re used to from science class. They’ve got eye patches, peg legs, hooks, earrings, and some pretty rad hats and jaggedy shorts. And oh, yes, did I mention they’re super colorful? Purple, orange, green, blue, mauve…. Readers can almost smell the sea air in Slack’s detailed, full-bleed pages of rowdy pirasaurs, tangled rigging, gross cooking, brave swashbuckling, and, ultimately, found treasure.

Pirasaurs! is definitely treasure for your bookshelves, as kids will want to read it again and again. Savvy?

Ages 3 – 9

Scholastic, 2016 | ISBN 978-0545750493

Josh Funk’s website has information on his books, fun activities for kids, book trailers, and much more!

You know Michael Slack’s awesome books! Find them as well as a gallery of illustrations and more on his website!

Ahoy, me Hearties! You be watchin’ this Pirasaurs! book trailer!

Talk Like a Pirate Day Activity

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Original artwork copyright Conor Carroll and Celebrate Picture Books, 2016

Avast! Board Game

 

Ahoy, Mateys! Avast! Somewhere on the island is buried treasure! Test your skills against rotten food, stormy seas, and even the Kraken (don’t worry, there are good days too!) as you traverse the forbidding landscape in search of jewels and gold!

Supplies

Printable Avast! Game Board and Game Pieces

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Original artwork copyright Conor Carroll and Celebrate Picture Books, 2016

Directions

  1. Print the Avast! Board Game pages on white paper or parchment-colored paper or on card stock.
  2. To make regular white paper appear old – as in the picture – paint with a tea wash before taping together. (See directions for tea wash below)
  3. Cut out the Avast! Pirate Loot Tokens
  4. Cut out the Avast! Game Cards
  5. Tape together the 4 pieces of the map. Option: map pages printed on regular paper can be  glued to a piece of poster board to make the game board more sturdy. 

To use a tea bag to make the map look old:

  1. Steep a black tea tea bag in 1/4 cup boiling water for 3 minutes
  2. Squeeze the tea bag dry over the cup and discard
  3. With the paint brush, paint the 4 pages of the map with the tea before taping them together
  4. Let dry or dry with a hair drier set on Low.

To Play the Game

  1. Each player chooses a Pirate Loot Token as their playing piece to move along the board
  2. Shuffle and stack the Game Cards
  3. Choose which player will go first
  4. Players choose the top card from the pile and follow the directions to move spaces on the game board.
  5. After moving, players should put their game card in a discard pile
  6. If game cards run out before the end, flip over the discard pile and use the cards again
  7. The first player to arrive at the X on the map finds the treasure and is the winner!

 

Q & A with Author Josh Funk

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Today Josh Funk, author of Pirasaurs!, Dear Dragon, and Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast drops by to talk about his work, his influences, upcoming books, and a very special ironing board!

What were some of the books you enjoyed most as a child?

Hmm. I hate starting this interview off negatively, but I find this question a bit problematic as it’s in the past tense. In many (most?) ways I’m still very much a child. Hee hee (wink).

I had a lot of the standard favorite picture books: CorduroySylvester and the Magic PebbleCaps for SaleThe LoraxLyle, Lyle, Crocodile.

But one of my more underrated favorites is The Adventures of the S.S. Happiness Crew: The First Adventure: Cap’n Joshua’s Dangerous Dilemma. The illustrations probably look familiar as it’s Eric Hill of the Spot series. My Aunt Betty gave me this book on the day my younger brother was born (I was three). I think it was the first book that I encountered where I shared a name with a character—which I certainly found thrilling as a three year old.

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Your rhymes are so inspired—have you always wanted to be a writer? How did you come to be a picture book author?

Actually, I wouldn’t say I’ve always wanted to be a writer. When I was a child, maybe 3rd grade, I wrote a rhyming poem about Larry Bird and another about Roger Clemens (I grew up a Celtics and Red Sox fan in the Boston suburbs). My parents were pretty impressed with the poems (and still have copies of them), but I didn’t really do too much writing after that as a child.

Until late high school and college when I learned how to play guitar. I wrote a bunch of songs, but I was always more of the clever & quirky type of songwriter, not the smooth and poetic type. It might have something to do with being a huge fan of They Might Be Giants for most of my life. When I had kids, any time I broke out the guitar, the kids just saw it as a toy, and I’d be halfway through a song before they started telling me, ‘My Turn!’

But around the same time, I was reading a lot of great picture books to my kids, and that’s when I decided to try writing my own. Some of my favorites included Iggy Peck, ArchitectThe Curious GardenThe Gardener, and Vunce Upon a Time. I was inspired, and it turns out that my rhyming songwriting skills actually paid off when it came to writing rhyming picture books.

I was quickly introduced to The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and went to the annual New England spring conference in 2012 – and I learned a ton. At the same spring conference in 2013, I met Heather Kelly who had just founded The Writer’s Loft  in another Boston suburb and immediately jumped on board. Both SCBWI and The Writers’ Loft have been extremely influential in my writing life, both in regards to the craft and the business. Fast forward to 2016, and I co-coordinated this past spring’s New England SCBWI conference (along with Heather Kelly) and I’m a member of the board of The Writers’ Loft.

And I can still use the guitar a little bit. I recorded the music for both the Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast book trailer and the Pirasaurs! book trailer. 

Your books are so varied. What sparks an idea for a book in general, or what was the spark for any of your books in particular?

I often think about what I’d like to see illustrated. I can’t draw particularly well, but I sure thought it would be fun to see what a Pirate-Dinosaur looked like, so I wrote Pirasaurs! I thought it might cool to see a boy and a dragon as pen pals, so I wrote Dear Dragon. I was entertained by the idea of breakfast foods causing catastrophic culinary chaos in the fridge. So I wrote Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast.

I think the varied styles are mostly due to the fact that each of the books is published by a different publisher and illustrated by a different illustrator. But I couldn’t be happier with the look of all three.

Your books contain such rollicking rhymes—can you describe your writing process?

Well it took some time to discover and then implement the following tidbit, but the most important thing about a rhyming picture book is not the rhyme … or the rhythm. Most important is a good story. So figuring out the story has to come first.

I’ll spend some time getting to know the characters, their goals, conflicts, and making sure I’ve got a satisfying ending in mind. Once I’m through the brainstorming process, I’ll usually hammer out a first draft over the course of a few days to a week. Then I’ll revise. I share the manuscript with critique partners and groups over the next few days/weeks/months. If it ever gets to the point where I think it’s good enough, I’ll send it to my agent.

I’ve refined my process over the last five years, and my first drafts are better now than they were then. I know better which ideas to pursue and which aren’t as marketable. I’ve made lots of valuable mistakes along the way. But I still have lots to learn. I can always improve my process.

What is the best part of writing picture books?

Probably when a parent says to me that they’ve read a book I wrote 5 times because their child kept requesting it over and over again. And that the parent was happy to oblige.

Can you describe your work space a little?

I mostly write (like I am now, answering these questions) on my laptop while laying in bed. Sometimes there’s music or a movie on in the background (often it’s Scott Pilgrim vs the World). Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and have an idea or a line or a scene that I just can’t get out of my head, so I write it on my phone … again, while in bed.

So, as far as work space, I guess it’s mostly a digital one. I do most of my writing in google docs in a chrome browser, often with thesaurus.com open in one tab and possibly rhymezone.com open in another.

My office mates are authors Jess Keating, Tara Lazar, and Anna Staniszewski who I ‘speak’ with in google chat, while I converse with my editors and agent via email.

What is the favorite object in your work space and why?

Probably my puffalump, Monkey Dude, who you can see in my head shot above

You have two more books scheduled for release in 2017: a sequel to Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast and It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk. Can you give readers a sneak peek? Are there any other books on the horizon?

In LP&SFT: The Case of the Stinky Stench, there’s something foul in the fridge and Inspector Croissant (Sir French Toast’s nephew) asks our main characters to help him find the source of a terrible odor. They search everywhere from Onion Ring Cave to Corn Chowder Lake, confident that the culprit is right under their noses… but I won’t spoil any more of it for you – you’ll just have to wait until next spring. Brendan Kearney is back as the illustrator and I kinda think it might be better than the first one.

It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk is my first story not written in rhyme. It was supposed to be the tale of Jack … and the beanstalk, but really … it’s not. All the narrator wants to do is tell the traditional tale properly. But Jack just won’t do what he’s supposed to! Jack constantly questions why he should sell his cow (Bessie’s my best friend) or climb the beanstalk (but it’s soooo tall) or enter the castle (there’s probably a giant in there). This one is illustrated by Edwardian Taylor – and he’s so talented! Follow him on Instagram to see his greatness!

And yes, there are certainly more books on the horizon. But … I can’t talk about them yet. Stay tuned.

I can’t properly call my blog holiday themed without asking you a few related questions, so…

What is your favorite holiday?

Halloween. Can’t beat candy corn and costumes.

Do you have an anecdote from any holiday you’d like to share?

A few years back I needed to wrap some holiday presents in private. So I went to the basement bathroom and stacked them up on an old ironing board. Over the next few days, the kids noticed the wrapped gifts and asked why they were in there, so I jokingly said that I was storing them on the ‘Winter Solstice Ironing Board.’

And now, every year around the holidays, we put all the family’s presents on that same ironing board during the holiday season … but we now keep the ‘Winter Solstice Ironing Board’ in the living room. Luckily, I haven’t needed to iron anything in the month of December since then.

Has a holiday ever influenced your work?

Nothing I can report on yet … but hopefully I’ll have news on that soon!

Well, Josh, I can’t wait to find out—and I’m sure readers can’t either! Thanks so much for sharing more about your work and influences! I wish you all the best with Pirasaurs! and all of your other books!

Josh Funk writes silly stories and somehow tricks people into publishing them as picture books – such as the Award-Winning LADY PANCAKE & SIR FRENCH TOAST (Sterling), PIRASAURS! (Scholastic), DEAR DRAGON (Viking/Penguin), LP&SFT: THE CASE OF THE STINKY STENCH (Sterling, 2017), IT’S NOT JACK AND THE BEANSTALK (Two Lions, 2017), and more.

Josh is a board member of The Writers’ Loft in Sherborn, MA and the co-coordinator of the 2016 and 2017 New England Regional SCBWI Conferences.

Josh grew up in New England and studied Computer Science in school. Today, he still lives in New England and when not writing Java code or Python scripts, he drinks Java coffee and writes picture book manuscripts.

Josh is terrible at writing bios, so please help fill in the blanks. Josh enjoys _______ during ________ and has always loved __________. He has played ____________ since age __ and his biggest fear in life is being eaten by a __________.

Find out more about Josh Funk at www.joshfunkbooks.com and on Twitter at @joshfunkbooks.

Pirasaurs! and Josh Funk’s other books can be found at:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Connect with Josh on:

joshfunkbooks.com | Facebook | Twitter

Picture Book Review

 

September 1 – World Letter Writing Day

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About the Holiday

Remember the thrill of receiving a letter—a real letter full of exciting news, lovey-dovey stuff, photos, or a highly anticipated answer to some inquiry or application? The footsteps of the postal carrier on the stoop, the creak and small bang of the mailbox lid opening and closing, and the view of a long envelope sticking out the top could all set the heart racing. Or perhaps you were the letter writer, pouring your experiences, heart, and hopes onto a piece of paper that might have been colored or even scented. World Letter Writing Day celebrates those missives that allow for the development of higher vocabulary and story-telling skills and provided physical souvenirs of a life well lived.

Dear Dragon

Written by Josh Funk | Illustrated by Rodolfo Montalvo

 

In a bit of cross-curriculum creativity, the teachers in two distinct school districts have combined the annual poetry units and pen pal projects. Not only do the kids get to make new friends, they must write their letters in rhyme. George Slair has been matched up with Blaise Dragomir. What George doesn’t know—but readers do—is that Blaise is a dragon; and what Blaise doesn’t know—but readers do—is that George is a boy.

In his first missive, George begins boldly and honestly: “Dear Blaise Dragomir, / We haven’t met each other, and I don’t know what to say. / I really don’t like writing, but I’ll do it anyway. / Yesterday my dad and I designed a giant fort. / I like playing catch and soccer. What’s your favorite sport? / Sincerely, George Slair”

As Blaise reads the letter he interprets George’s cardboard box, blanket, and umbrella fort as a medieval stone fortress with an iron gate and whittled-to-a-point log fencing. Blaise writes back: “Dear George Slair, / I also don’t like writing, but I’ll try it, I suppose. / A fort is like a castle, right? I love attacking those. / My favorite sport is skydiving. I jump near Falcor Peak. / Tomorrow is my birthday, but my party is next week. / Sincerely, Blaise Dragomir”

In his next letter, dated October 31, more earth-bound George tells Blaise that parachuting is awesome, that his dog destroyed his fort, and that he is trick-or-treating as a knight—a revelation to which Blaise has a visceral response. But what is scary to one pal is tame to the other. On November 14th Blaise relates: “Knights are super scary! I don’t like trick-or-treat. / Brushing teeth is such a pain, I rarely eat a sweet. / My pet’s a Bengal Kitten and tonight she needs a bath. / What’s your favorite class in school? I’m really into math!”

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Image copyright Rodolfo Montalvo, courtesy, Viking Books for Young Readers

Reading December’s letter Blaise learns that George likes art and imagines George’s table-top volcano science project as a roaring, lava-spewing mountain while in January George is impressed to learn that Blaise’s father is a fire-breather. He conjures up images of a dad in a fancy, caped costume creating fire out of nothing while the truth is a lot more explosive. February brings word that there is a pen pal picnic planned for June, and in March Blaise tells George about a special outing with his dad: “Soon he’s gonna take me flying, once it’s really spring. / It’s such a rush to ride the air that flows from wing to wing.”

Springtime also sees the two becoming better friends. The formal “Sincerely, George” or “Sincerely, Blaise” sign-off of the first letters has evolved into “Your friend”  as George expresses his wonder at Blaise’s parents: “Hi, Blaise! / Skydiving and flying? Wow, your parents rock! / I’m lucky if my father lets me bike around the block.” Then it appears that this project has been a success in all areas as George asks, “Once the school year’s over and this project is complete, / should we continue writing? ‘Cause it could be kind of neat….”

Blaise is all in. In his May letter, he writes, “Hey, George! / I’m psyched about the picnic and I can’t wait to attend. / Who’d have thought this pen pal thing would make me a new friend? / Writing more sounds awesome. I was gonna ask you, too! / I’ve never liked to write as much as when I write to you.”

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Image copyright Rodolfo Montalvo, courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers

With a growing sense of anticipation, readers know that with a turn of the page June will come, and that June brings the long-awaited picnic. How will George and Blaise react when they see each other? As the kids approach the Pen Pal Picnic spot, their mouths hang open and their eyes grow wide. One even has his hands to his face. And as the dragons peek out from behind the trees, their mouths hang open and their eyes grow wide. One even has her hand to her face.

“‘Blaise?’” George ventures, as a slice of tomato drops from his hamburger. “‘George?’” Blaise presumes, although he wrings his tail. “‘My pen pal is a dragon?’”… “‘My pen pal is a human?’”

These two-page spreads say it all—or do they? Well, not quite…

Huge grins burst out as George and Blaise exchange high fives (and fours). The other kid- and-dragon pals are having a blast too! And the teachers? “‘Our plan was a success, my friend, or so it would appear!’ / ‘The Poetry and Pen Pal Project! Once again next year?’”

With his usual aplomb, Josh Funk charms with rhyme and reason in this clever tribute to friendship, diversity, and writing (on paper!). The letters between the two pen pals are endearingly kid-like, full of the subjects that are important in a child’s life, including pets, school, hobbies, and parents, and that can be brilliantly open to interpretation—or misinterpretation. Blaise Dagomir and George Slair’s names are similarly inspired, and may introduce kids to the ancient legends of Saint George and the Dragon and the poem by Alfred Noyes, St George and the Dragon. Kids will enjoy seeing how George and Blaise’s friendship grows over the school year, evidenced in the openings and closings of their letters. The letters are a joy to read aloud as the rhymes swoop and flow as easily as Blaise soars through the air.

Following the alternating sequence of the letters, Rodolfo Montalvo depicts each pen pal’s perception of the message along with the reality in his illustrations that are—as George exclaims—“as awesome as it gets.” Both characters are sweet and earnest, and while surprised by what they think the other’s life is like, happily supportive. The full-bleed pages and vibrant colors dazzle with excitement and humor and ingenious details. Kids will love the juxtaposition of George’s idea of Blaise’s Bengal “kitten” and the reality of a nearly full-grown tiger. The two views of fire-breathing will also bring a laugh, and readers will enjoy picking out features of the two homes. The final spreads build suspense as to how George and Blaise will react to each other, and the resolution is a delight.

One striking aspect of both the text and the illustrations is the similarity between the two pen pals. While their activities and experiences may be on different scales, they are comparable and understandable to each child. Likewise, everywhere in the paintings, Montalvo uses complementary colors to unite George and Blaise. This cohesiveness beautifully represents the theme of inclusiveness.

Dear Dragon is released September 6 and is certain to be a book children treasure. The fun dual meaning rhymes and endearing illustrations make Dear Dragon a must for kids’ (and dragon’s) bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 9

Viking Books for Young Readers, 2016 | ISBN 978-0451472304

From more books to activities for kids, there’s so much to see and do on Josh Funk’s website!

Discover the world of Rodolfo Montalvo’s books and artwork on his website!

Dear Reader, check out this blazing hot book trailer!

World Letter Writing Day Activity

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Dependable Dragon Pencil Case

 

U-knight-ing all your pens, pencils, and other supplies in this Dependable Dragon Pencil Case will fire up your imagination! Have a blast making this fun craft!

Supplies      

  • Printable Dragon Pencil Case Template – Wings | Face
  • Sheets of felt, 8 ½-inch by 11-inch
  • 2 Dark green
  • 1 Light green
  • 1 white
  • 1 black
  • 1 yellow
  • 1 purple
  • Fabric Glue
  • Glitter glue or Fabric paint (optional)
  • Scissors
  • Velcro
  • Green Thread (optional if you would like to sew instead of glue your case)
  • Needle (optional, needed if sewing)

Directions

  1. Print the Dragon Templates
  2. Cut out alternating rows of scales from the dark and light green felt (7 each). For one row, cut a rounded top (instead of straight across) to make the top of the head (see picture). (One row of scales is longer so you can tile them. You will trim them later: see the double row of scales on the template for how the scales should look)
  3. Cut the eyes from the white felt, pupils and nostrils from the black felt, horns from the yellow felt, and wings from the purple felt. Set aside.

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To make the head

  1. Fold one dark piece of felt in half lengthwise
  2. Cut a wavy line along the bottom of the felt to make lips (see picture)
  3. Glue a ½-inch-wide strip along open side and along bottom (or you can sew it)

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To add the scales

  1. Starting at the bottom, lay on row of scales a little above the wavy bottom. Glue the top to the base.
  2. Overlap an alternating green row of scales on the first row, glue the top
  3. Continue alternating dark and light green scales until you reach 9 inches
  4. Use the rounded row of scales for the top of the head (see how to insert horns before attaching top of head)

To insert the horns

  1. On the rounded row of scales, mark where you want the horns to be
  2. Cut two small slices in the felt where the horns will go
  3. Insert the bottoms of the horns into the slits

To finish the head

  1. Glue the top of the head to the base
  2. Trim any longer rows of scales to meet the edges of the base
  3. Add the eyes and nostrils to the face

To make the closure for the case

  1. Cut the base following the line of the rounded row of scales
  2. Glue or sew strips of Velcro along the inside edges

To attach the wings

  1. Turn the dragon case to the back
  2. Glue or sew the wings to the center of the back, attaching them at the center edge
  3. Outline the wings in glitter glue (optional)

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Picture Book Review

March 25 – International Waffle Day

Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast by Josh Funk and Brendan Kearney Picture Book Review

About the Holiday

When someone made a spelling error, turning the Swedish holiday “Our Lady’s Day” (Vårfrudagen) into Waffle Day (Våffeldagen), a brand new culinary celebration began! Waffle Day also ushers in spring and offers the perfect excuse to enjoy these crispy concoctions whether you like them sweet, with syrup or confectioner’s sugar, or savory, as a base for meat and other toppings. So mix up some batter and pull out your favorite waffle maker and enjoy a delicious day!

Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast

Written by Josh Funk | Illustrated by Brendan Kearney

 

You know those strange noises you sometimes hear coming from your refrigerator? And how you could have sworn the leftovers were on the top shelf? Well, Josh Funk’s Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast may solve those mysteries and more in this rambunctious tale about what happens when relationships grow frosty.

One day Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast are hanging out at the back of the fridge when they learn the syrup is almost gone. Lady Pancake claims it as her own, but Sir French Toast replies, “Not if I get there first!” And so off they race! “Through Broccoli Forest, past Orange Juice Fountain, they climbed to the top of Potato Mash Mountain.” But the race takes a turn as the two meet obstacles that are no fun at all: at the edge of a shelf “Toast couldn’t quite stop, plummeting down into jam with a plop.” And “Chili Lagoon slathered Pancake in muck and then at a fork in the road she got stuck.”

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The one-time friends call each other names and taunt each other with boasts of being the best breakfast food. As their competition upends the peace of the whole refrigerator from shelf to shelf, Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast find their energy wilting, and by the time they reach that sweet sought-after prize, they are “battered and soggy, exhausted and crumbling, too tired to push, they were limping and stumbling.”

With the bottle in sight, they are shocked to discover that the last drop of syrup is already gone. Who could have done this dastardly deed? None other than the sneaky Baron Von Waffle! With nothing to gain, Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast no longer have a reason to fight. In fact they realize that they lost out on the syrup because they were fighting. When they see that there is a little butter left, they decide to use the lesson they learned and share it.

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There are so many fantastic rhymes in this book that kids will want to hear again and again. One of my favorites comes as Sir French Toast catches up to Lady Pancake: “He scraped himself off and yelled up, / ‘You’re a meanie!’ / as Pancake rappelled / down a rope of linguini.” With such laugh-inducing verses, kids may never look at food the same way again. Josh Funk has created a tale about friendship that is both boisterous and unique and sure to quickly become a favorite.

The refrigerator world as envisioned by Brendan Kearney is as colorful as the food rainbow and as active as a playground in summer. It’s also stacked with the cutest array of legumes, yogurt, cake, juices, fruit, and veggies you’ll find anywhere. The final fold-down page of the entire refrigerator is a delight that kids of all ages will want to linger over even after the story of The Great Race between Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast is over.

Ages 5 and up

Sterling Children’s Books, 2015 | ISBN 978-1454914044

Visit Josh Funk’s Website to download a free Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast Activity Kit and to learn about more upcoming titles!

Discover more art and books by Brendan Kearney on his website!

Watch the trailer for this amazing race – you’ll be singing the Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast theme song in no time!

International Waffle Day Activity 

 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lady-pancake-and-sir-french-toast

Sweet as Syrup Figure

 

Fun shouldn’t be kept bottled up! Well…maybe just this once. Make your own figure to display or play with from a syrup bottle with this craft. It’s sure to be as sweet as you are!

Supplies

  • Small plastic syrup bottle with a narrow squeeze fliptop and without a handle, empty
  • 1 ½-inch wooden ball with ½-inch hole in bottom
  • 16-inch to 18-inch square piece of cloth
  • Ribbon or strip of material
  • 12 to 14-inch long medium-gauge craft wire
  • Gel pens, black, blue, brown, red (Gel pens work well on the wood as the ink doesn’t bleed into the wood and are easy to control)
  • Poly fill or needle-felting wool
  • Scissors
  • Strong glue

CPB - Syrup Bottle Figure II

Directions

To prepare the bottle

  1. Remove labels from syrup bottle
  2. Cut the flip top in half, keeping the narrow nozzle part

To make the head

  1. Holding the wooden ball with the hole at the bottom, draw a face on the wooden ball with the gel pens
  2. Glue a small handful of poly fill or needle-felting wool to the top of the wooden ball for hair. You can make the hair has long, short, or poofy as you wish.

To make the dress

  1. Cut a 16-inch diameter circle from the material

To assemble the figure

  1. To make the arms, wrap the wire around the neck of the syrup bottle, crossing it in the back and pulling tight
  2. Center the material over the opening of the syrup bottle
  3. Cut tiny slits in the material at the location of the wire on each side of the bottle, and pull the arms through the material
  4. Bend the ends of the wire into a small loop to form hands
  5. Screw the cap with the narrow nozzle over the material
  6. Tie the ribbon or strip of material around the narrow part of the bottle to make the figure’s waist
  7. Place the hole in the wooden ball over the nozzle in the cap and glue into place

Make up your own story with your new figure!